Gene Harbrecht

Author's posts

Feb 14

Shooting at Florida high school; number of wounded unclear

The Associated Press

PARKLAND, Fla. — A shooting at a Florida high school Wednesday sent students rushing out into the streets as SWAT team members swarmed in and locked down the building. Ambulances converged on the scene as emergency workers appeared to be treating possibly wounded people on the sidewalks.

Television footage showed police in olive fatigues, with weapons drawn, entering the school, then dozens of children running and walking quickly out. A police officer waved the students on, urging them to quickly evacuate the school.

Emergency medical personnel pulled stretchers from the backs of ambulances as police cars surrounded the parking lot of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were wounded.

Coral Springs Police said on their Twitter account Wednesday that the school was locked down and that students and teachers inside should remain barricaded until police reach them.

TV footage showed at least one person being wheeled to an ambulance on a gurney while emergency workers appeared to be helping others on the sidewalk. The news broadcasts also showed students running across the street.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/14/shooting-at-florida-high-school-no-of-wounded-unclear/

Jan 16

Bannon is subpoenaed in Mueller’s Russia investigation

MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT

The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Stephen Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, was subpoenaed last week by special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Trump’s associates and Russia, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The move marked the first time Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Trump’s inner circle. The special counsel’s office has used subpoenas before to seek information on Trump’s associates and their possible ties to Russia or other foreign governments.

The subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. Mueller is likely to allow Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to instead be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices about ties between Trump’s associates and Russia and about the president’s conduct in office, according to the person, who would not be named discussing the case. But it was not clear why Mueller treated Bannon differently than the dozen administration officials who were interviewed in the final months of last year and were never served with a subpoena.

The subpoena is a sign that Bannon is not personally the focus of the investigation. Justice Department rules allow prosecutors to subpoena the targets of investigations only in rare circumstances.

On Tuesday, Bannon testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Bannon did not address reporters before entering the proceeding Tuesday, and a spokesman for Mueller and a senior White House lawyer did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Mueller issued the subpoena after Bannon was quoted in a new book criticizing Trump, saying that Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with Russians was “treasonous” and predicting that the special counsel investigation would ultimately center on money laundering.

After excerpts from the book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” were published this month, Trump derided Bannon publicly and threatened to sue him for defamation. Bannon was soon ousted as the executive chairman of the hard-right website Breitbart News.

Some legal experts said the subpoena could be a sign that the investigation was intensifying, while others said it may simply have been a negotiating tactic to persuade Bannon to cooperate with the investigation. The experts also said it could be a signal to Bannon, who has tried to publicly patch up his falling-out with the president, that despite Trump’s legal threats, Bannon must be completely forthcoming with investigators.

Prosecutors generally prefer to interview witnesses before a grand jury when they believe they have information that the witnesses do not know or when they think they might catch the witnesses in a lie. It is much easier for a witness to stop the questioning or sidestep questions in an interview than during grand jury testimony, which is transcribed, and witnesses are required to answer every question.

“By forcing someone to testify through a subpoena, you are providing the witness with cover because they can say, ‘I had no choice — I had to go in and testify about everything I knew,’” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a prosecutor for the independent counsel that investigated Bill Clinton when he was president.

Significant grand jury activity may undermine the case that White House officials have made for months: that they believe the inquiry is coming to an end and are convinced that the president will be cleared. Mueller has told Trump’s lawyers that he will probably want to question the president before the investigation concludes, but no interview has been scheduled.

Bannon has limited firsthand knowledge about two key issues within Mueller’s purview — the president’s firing of James Comey as FBI director, a decision made without Bannon present, and the drafting of a misleading statement about the subject of the June 2016 meeting with Russians, in which they promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

But even Bannon’s secondhand knowledge could be used to draw a contrast with statements from people with firsthand knowledge whom Mueller has already interviewed. And Bannon was directly involved in a number of other major moments, including the decision-making around the firing of Michael Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, who was dismissed after he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about phone calls with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

Bannon also helped run the transition after Chris Christie, the outgoing governor of New Jersey, was fired as head of that team. And Bannon was the chief executive of the Trump campaign in October 2016 when WikiLeaks began releasing thousands of stolen personal emails from the hacked account of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

In “Fire and Fury,” Bannon was quoted by the author, Michael Wolff, as suggesting that Donald Trump Jr.; the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner; and Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman at the time, were “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for attending the meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. Bannon said that he believed there was “zero” chance that the younger Trump did not take them to meet his father, who has said he knew nothing about the meeting.
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers,” Bannon said in the book.

Trump erupted in anger after the excerpts were published, calling Bannon “Sloppy Steve” on Twitter and saying he had “cried when he got fired and begged for his job.”

“Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone,” Trump wrote. “Too bad!”
Days after the excerpts were published, a statement was issued in Bannon’s name in which he tried to back away from his assertions in the book. He said that his reference to treason was aimed at Manafort, not the president’s son. Bannon did not apologize, however, and though he had approved the statement, an associate sent it to reporters without his knowledge.

The president appeared to ease his anger toward Bannon at the end of last week. When asked in an interview with The Wall Street Journal whether his break with Bannon was “permanent,” the president replied, “I don’t know what the word ‘permanent’ means.”

People close to Bannon took the president’s comments as a signal that Trump was aware that his fired strategist would soon be contacted by investigators.

Trump has a history of reaching out to people he has fired, including those under investigation, directly or indirectly, as he did with Flynn after he was dismissed and before he struck a plea deal with Mueller’s investigators.

Bannon has hired William A. Burck of the Washington office of the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan law firm to represent him in the defamation threats from Trump and the congressional inquiries. Burck also represents several current and former administration officials who have been interviewed as witnesses by Mueller’s investigators. Among them are the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, and the former White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/16/bannon-is-subpoenaed-in-muellers-russia-investigation/

Dec 05

Kennedy wrestles with wedding cake case at Supreme Court

By MARK SHERMAN

The Associated Press
WASHINGTON  — His vote likely to decide the outcome, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy voiced competing concerns Tuesday about respecting the religious beliefs of a Colorado baker who wouldn’t make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, and the gay couple’s dignity.

Kennedy, the author of all the court’s major gay-rights decisions, worried early in a riveting argument at the high court that a ruling in favor of baker Jack Phillips might allow shop owners to put up signs saying “We do not bake cakes for gay weddings.”

But later, Kennedy said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission seemed “neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs” when it found his refusal to bake a cake for the gay couple violated the state’s anti-discrimination law.

Jack Phillips speaks to the media after leaving the Supreme Court which is hearing the 'Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission,' Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Jack Phillips speaks to the media after leaving the Supreme Court which is hearing the ‘Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission,’ Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Phillips and the couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, were all in the courtroom Tuesday to listen to an argument that otherwise seemed to put the conservative justices squarely with Phillips and the liberals on the couple’s side.

The case pits Phillips’ First Amendment claims of artistic freedom against the anti-discrimination arguments of the Colorado commission, and the two men Phillips turned away in 2012.

The argument was the first involving gay rights since the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that states could not prevent same-sex couples from marrying.

The Trump administration is supporting Phillips in his argument that he can’t be forced to create a cake that violates his religious beliefs. It appears to be the first time the federal government has asked the justices to carve out an exception from an anti-discrimination law.

Protesters on both sides filled the sidewalk in front of the court, shortly before the start of the argument.

“We got Jack’s back,” Phillips’ supporters said. Backers of Craig and Mullins countered: “Love wins.”

Inside the packed courtroom, the liberal justices peppered Kristen Waggoner, Phillips’ lawyer, and Solicitor General Noel Francisco, with questions about how to draw a line to accommodate Phillips without eviscerating laws that require businesses that are open to the public to serve all customers.

The case’s outcome could affect photographers and florists who have voiced objections similar to those of Phillips.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan ticked off other categories of people who are involved in weddings to ask if they too might be able to refuse a same-sex couple. A graphic artist who designs menus and invitations? A jeweler? A hair stylist? A makeup artist?

Waggoner said the person who makes menus and invitations might be in the same position as Phillips, but not the others because what they do is “not speech.”

Kagan replied: “Some people might say that about cakes, you know?”

More generally, Justice Stephen Breyer in an exchange with Francisco said his concern is the court would have “no way of confining” a decision in favor of Phillips.

Kennedy’s comments in the first half of the 75-minute argument seemed firmly in line with the concerns for human dignity that Kennedy expressed in his opinion in the 2015 gay marriage case and other gay-rights decisions he has written over more than 20 years. Kennedy expressed his doubts when Francisco tried to describe a narrow range of situations in which Phillips and similarly situated business owners might have a right to refuse service.

“The problem for you is so many examples do involve speech. It basically means there is an ability to boycott,” Kennedy said.

When Frederick Yarger, the Colorado solicitor general and the American Civil Liberties Union’s David Cole stood up to defend the commission’s ruling against Phillips, the conservative justices pounced.

Because same-sex marriage was not yet legal in Colorado in 2012, Justice Samuel Alito noted that Craig and Mullins could not have obtained a marriage license where they lived or gotten a local official to marry them. Yet Phillips supposedly “committed a grave wrong” when he refused to make them a cake, Alito said. That struck him as unfair, he said.

Chief Justice John Roberts pressed both Cole and Yarger on whether a Catholic legal services agency that provides help for free would have to take up a case involving a same-sex couple, despite the religious opposition to same-sex marriage. Yes, Cole said, “if they’ve provided the same services to couples who are straight.”

Colorado native Neil Gorsuch, taking part in the most important gay rights case since he joined the Supreme Court in April, asked Cole whether a baker who made a cake shaped like a red cross to celebrate relief efforts also would have to make the same cake for the Ku Klux Klan.

Cole said no, because Colorado’s anti-discrimination law refers to race, sex and sexual orientation, but does not protect KKK members.

Kennedy’s questions in this portion of the argument seemed to reflect his strong First Amendment views in favor of free speech and religion that he has developed in nearly 30 years on the court.

Kennedy described comments made by one of the seven Colorado commissioners in the case as hostile to religion. “Did the commission ever disavow or disapprove” of those remarks, he asked. Not before today, Yarger said, disavowing them.

The exchange raised another possibility: that the court could return the case to the commission for reconsideration because its first decision was tainted by religious bias.

Colorado is among only 21 states with statewide laws barring discrimination against gays and lesbians in public accommodations.

The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 16-111, will be decided by late June.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/05/kennedy-wrestles-with-wedding-cake-case-at-supreme-court/

Dec 04

Rebels kill Yemen’s strongman Saleh as alliance collapses

By AHMED AL-HAJ and MAGGIE MICHAEL

The Associated Press
SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni rebels killed their erstwhile ally Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country’s former president and strongman, as their forces battled for control of the capital, Sanaa, officials said. The collapse of their alliance throws Yemen’s nearly 3-year-old civil war into unpredictable new chaos.

The circumstances of Saleh’s death were unclear but Houthi officials said their forces caught up with him as he tried to flee Sanaa.

A video circulating online purported to show Saleh’s body, his eyes open but glassy, motionless with a gaping head wound, as he was being carried in a blanket by rebel fighters chanting “God is great” who then dump him into a pickup truck. Blood stained his shirt under a dark suit.

It was a grisly end for a figure who was able to rule the impoverished and unstable country for more than three decades and remained a powerhouse even after he was ousted in a 2011 Arab Spring uprising. His death recalled another Arab leader killed in the midst of his own country’s uprising, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whose body was shown in a video being abused by rebels who killed in him 2011.

Saleh’s death was announced by the rebels, known as Houthis, who have been fighting Saleh’s forces for the past week. Two of Saleh’s associates have confirmed and a third official from the government of Yemen’s internationally recongnized president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has also confirmed.

“The leader of treason has been killed,” Houthis’ TV network al-Masriah said.

Saleh allied with the Houthis, and the support of his loyalist military units was key to helping the Houthis overrun the capital, Sanaa, in 2014, driving out Hadi’s government. But in recent months, the alliance frayed amid Houthi suspicions Saleh was leaning toward the Saudi-led coalition backing Hadi.

Hadi’s forces, trying to take advantage of the collapse of the alliance, announced they would march on Sanaa.

But even without Saleh’s loyalists, the rebels remain a powerful force and it is unclear how much the break with Saleh weakens them. Over the past year, the Houthis had steadily undermined Saleh and reduced their need for him, winning military commanders over to their side and boosting their own forces.

A major question now will be whether Saleh’s loyalists — and tribes that support him — can rally to fight the Houthis after his death.

Several Houthi military officials said Saleh was killed as he headed along with top party leaders from Sanaa to his hometown of Sanhan, nearby. Houthi fighters followed him in 20 armored vehicles, attacked and killed him and almost all those with him, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press. A Houthi media official, Abdel-Rahman al-Ahnomi told the Associated Press that Houthi fighters killed Saleh as he tried to flee to Saudi Arabia though the province of Marib, to the east of the capital.

The Saudi-led coalition had hoped that Saleh’s break with the Houthis would be a turning point, isolating the rebels. Over the past days, fighter jets from the Saudi-led coalition pounded Houthis positions, throwing support behind Saleh and fueling divisions with Houthis. Hadi’s government had expressed willingness to turn “a new page” with whoever stands against the rebels.

The fighting left Sanaa divided. The Houthis dominate the northern part of the city, while Saleh’s forces hold the southern part, with much of the current fighting concentrated around the Political District, home to ministries and foreign embassies. The Houthis appeared to be targeting the homes of Saleh’s family, political allies and commanders.

Civilians living in the area are largely cut off from the outside world.

Yemenis huddled in basements across Sanaa overnight as airstrikes echoed across the city. Suze van Meegen, Sanaa-based protection and advocacy adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council, said the violence left aid workers trapped inside their homes and was “completely paralyzing humanitarian operations.”

“No one is safe in Sana’a at the moment. I can hear heavy shelling outside now and know it is too imprecise and too pervasive to guarantee that any of us are safe,” she said.

“The night was tough,” Robert Mardini, the regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross, posted on his Twitter account. “Massive urban clashes with heavy artillery and airstrikes. Yemenis stuck in their homes, too scared to go out. Reduced access to water, health care, food and fuel.”

In southern Sanaa’s Fag Attan neighborhood, the Houthis used tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft guns to try to take out snipers loyal to Saleh, damaging or destroying several buildings.

Residents said the night was shattered by the sounds of gunfire and children screaming.

“It’s like horror movies,” said Bushra, a local woman who asked that her last name not be published for fear of retribution. “I have lived through many wars but nothing like this.”

Witnesses said the bodies of slain civilians and fighters littered the streets, as no ambulances were able to reach the area. The ICRC says at least 125 people have been killed and some 240 wounded in Sanaa since the fighting began Wednesday.

Jamie McGoldrick, of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, described the fighting in Sanaa as “another dark chapter of life here.” Speaking from Sanaa, McGoldrick said that humanitarian agencies are close to the front lines and that aid workers are also sheltering in basements. He called for a humanitarian pause to the fighting to allow civilians to escape.

During his more than 30 years in power, Saleh was known as the man who “dances on the heads of snakes” for his mastery of shifting alliances, playing both sides or flipping sides in the multiple conflicts tearing apart Yemen.

In the 2000s, he was a key ally of the U.S. in the fight against al-Qaida, taking millions of dollars in American aid to hunt down the group’s branch — even as he was accused of striking alliances with the militants and using them against his own enemies. During his rule, he fought multiple wars against the Houthis in northern Yemen, only to side with them against his own former vice president-turned-successor, Hadi, after he lost power.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/04/rebels-kill-yemens-strongman-saleh-as-alliance-collapses/

Nov 29

War crimes court winds down with defendant’s stunning death

By MIKE CORDER

The Associated Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands —

A convicted war criminal from Croatia swallowed what he said was poison and died Wednesday after a United Nations court in the Netherlands upheld his 20-year sentence for committing crimes against humanity during the Bosnian war of the 1990s.

In a stunning end to the final case at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, former Croatian general Slobodan Praljak yelled, “I am not a war criminal!” in a courtroom and appeared to drink from a small bottle.

Medical staff at the tribunal in The Hague rushed to Praljak’s side before he was taken to a local hospital, where he died, tribunal spokesman Nenad Golcevski told reporters at the court.

The courtroom where the dramatic scene unfolded was sealed off. Presiding Judge Carmel Agius said it was now a “crime scene” and that Dutch police could investigate. Police in The Hague declined to comment on the case.

Dutch police, an ambulance and a firetruck quickly arrived outside the court’s headquarters and emergency service workers, some of them wearing helmets and with oxygen tanks on their backs, went into the court shortly after the incident.

Praljak and five other former Bosnian Croat officials were convicted as part of a criminal plan to carve out a Bosnian Croat mini-state inside Bosnia in the early 1990s. All had their guilty verdicts sustained by the U.N.’s war crimes court Wednesday.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic offered condolences to Praljak’s family. Praljak’s actions reflected the “deep moral injustice” done to the six Bosnian Croats, the prime minister said.

Croatian state TV reported that President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic cut short an official visit to Iceland and the government held an emergency session.

Praljak, 72, had been in the tribunal’s custody before the hearing. Poison has not yet been identified as the cause of his death, and it was not clear how he would have gotten access to a lethal substance or managed to smuggle it into the courtroom.

A lawyer who has frequently defended suspects at the war crimes court told The Associated Press it would be easy to bring poison into the court.

Prominent Serbian lawyer Toma Fila said security for lawyers and other court staff “is just like at an airport.” Security officers inspect metal objects and confiscate cellphones, but “pills and small quantities of liquids” would not be registered, Fila said.

Praljak was a Bosnian Croat writer and film and theater director turned wartime general. His indictment said he also worked as a professor of philosophy and sociology.

He was found guilty of crimes that included murder, persecution and inhumane treatment as part of the plan to drive Muslims out of a would-be Bosnian Croat territory in Bosnia.

Presiding Judge Carmel Agius overturned some of Praljak’s convictions, but upheld others and left his sentence unchanged.

After Praljak heard his 20-year sentence, he swallowed what he told the court was poison. Agius immediately shut down the hearing and cleared the courtroom.

The hearing later resumed and ultimately, all six Croats charged in the case had their sentences, ranging from 25 to 10 years, confirmed.

The other suspects showed no emotion as Agius reconfirmed their sentences for their involvement.

In the past, two Serbs have taken their lives while in the tribunal’s custody.

In July 1998, Slavko Dokmanovic, a Croatian Serb charged with in the deaths of over 200 Croat prisoners of war, was found dead in his prison cell in The Hague. Milan Babic, a wartime Serbian leader who was closely cooperating with prosecutors, took his life in a prison tribunal cell in March 2006.

Wednesday’s hearing was the final case at the groundbreaking tribunal before it closes its doors next month. The tribunal, which last week convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic of genocide and other crimes, was set up in 1993, while fighting still raged in the former Yugoslavia. It indicted 161 suspects and convicted 90 of them.

The appeals judges upheld a key finding that Croatia’s late President Franjo Tudjman was a member of the plot to create a Croat mini-state in Bosnia. The finding angered Croatian leaders, but was largely overshadowed by Praljak.

The original trial began in April 2006 and provided a reminder of the complex web of ethnic tensions that fueled fighting in Bosnia and underlies frictions in the country even today.

Croatian Prime Minister Plenkovic said that his country’s leadership during the Bosnian war could “in no way be connected with the facts and interpretations” in the appeals judgment.

Dusan Stojanovic and Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia; Sabina Niksic and Amer Cohadzic in Sarajevo, Bosnia; Eldar Emric in Mostar, Bosnia; and Darko Bandic in Zagreb, Croatia.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/29/war-crimes-convict-reportedly-dies-after-poison-claim/

Nov 28

Trump makes hard-sell push for his agenda on Hill

By ANDREW TAYLOR

The Associaed Press
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump makes a new push Tuesday for his year-end agenda as he heads to the Capitol to rally Senate Republicans on taxes then pivots to negotiations with Democrats in a separate, high-stakes showdown over the budget and immigration.

Trump is still seeking his first marquee win in Congress, but the White House and top GOP leaders have work to do to get their tax bill in shape before a hoped-for vote later this week. Party deficit hawks pressed for a “backstop” mechanism to limit the risk of a spiral in the deficit, even as defenders of small business pressed for more generous treatment for Main Street.

On a separate track from taxes is a multi-layered negotiation over a huge Pentagon budget increase sought by Trump and Republicans and increases for domestic programs demanded by Democrats. Democrats carry leverage into the talks, which have GOP conservatives on edge.

A temporary spending bill expires Dec. 8 and another is needed to prevent a government shutdown. Hurricane aid weighs in the balance and Democrats are pressing for legislative protections for immigrants known as “Dreamers,” even as conservative Republicans object to including the issue in the crush of year-end business.

Tuesday would bring Trump’s third visit to the Capitol in little more than a month — this time to make the sale to Senate Republicans on his signature tax bill. But among the holdouts are GOP Trump critics, including Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee — though GOP leaders are seeking to rope in straggling Republicans with a flurry of deal-cutting.

“There’s still some loose ends. We’re not quite there yet,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “But I think we’re going to get there, I really do.”

Trump’s sessions with big groups of Republicans tend to take the form of pep rallies, and when visiting a Senate GOP lunch last month Trump spent much of the time on a rambling account of the accomplishments of his administration.

Later on Tuesday, the bipartisan top four leaders of Congress — Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, for the House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — will head to the White House to touch gloves on a range of year-end issues.

Topping the bipartisan agenda is a heavily-sought year-end spending package to give both the Pentagon and domestic agencies relief from a budget freeze.

Trump hasn’t engaged much with Pelosi and Schumer since a September meeting that produced an agreement on a short-term increase in the government’s so-called debt limit and a temporary spending bill that is keeping the government’s doors open through Dec. 8.

Trump reveled in the bipartisan deal for a time and generated excitement among Democrats when he told then he would sign legislation to protect from deportation immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.

Trump in September reversed an executive order by former President Barack Obama that gave protections to these immigrants, many of whom have little or no connection to their home country. Shortly afterward, he told Pelosi and Schumer he would sign legislation protecting those immigrants, provided Democrats made concessions of their own on border security.

Since the president is such a wild card, neither Democrats nor Republicans were speculating much about what Tuesday’s meeting might produce.

“Hopefully, we can make progress on an agreement that covers those time-sensitive issues and keeps the government running and working for the American people,” Schumer said.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/28/trump-makes-hard-sell-push-for-his-agenda-on-hill/

Nov 27

Prince Harry, actress Meghan Markle to wed next year

 

Prince Harry, fifth in line to the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, palace officials announced Monday, confirming months of speculation.

Markle, a humanitarian campaigner and lifestyle blogger who succeeded in show business before falling for Harry, will become a senior member of the royal family as the wife of one of the monarchy’s most popular figures.

Harry, a bad-boy-made-good by his tireless devotion to wounded veterans and his embrace of a variety of charitable causes, has said for several years that he wants to start a family, and the rumors of his engagement to Markle have been flying for some time.

  • In this Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 file photo, Britain’s Prince Harry and his girlfriend Meghan Markle attend the wheelchair tennis competition during the Invictus Games in Toronto. Palace officials announced Monday Nov. 27, 2017, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged, and will marry in the spring. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

    In this Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 file photo, Britain’s Prince Harry and his girlfriend Meghan Markle attend the wheelchair tennis competition during the Invictus Games in Toronto. Palace officials announced Monday Nov. 27, 2017, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged, and will marry in the spring. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

  • Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. It was announced Monday that Prince Harry, fifth in line for the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, confirming months of rumors. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

    Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. It was announced Monday that Prince Harry, fifth in line for the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, confirming months of rumors. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

  • Britain’s Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle pose for photographers during a photocall in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. Britain’s royal palace says Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle are engaged and will marry in the spring of 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

    Britain’s Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle pose for photographers during a photocall in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. Britain’s royal palace says Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle are engaged and will marry in the spring of 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Meghan Markle wears her engagement ring as she poses with Britain’s Prince Harry for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. It was announced Monday that Prince Harry, fifth in line for the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, confirming months of rumors. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

    Meghan Markle wears her engagement ring as she poses with Britain’s Prince Harry for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. It was announced Monday that Prince Harry, fifth in line for the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, confirming months of rumors. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

  • Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. It was announced Monday that Prince Harry, fifth in line for the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, confirming months of rumors. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

    Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. It was announced Monday that Prince Harry, fifth in line for the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, confirming months of rumors. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

  • Britain’s Prince Charles smiles as he visits the Loop Technology Centre in Poundbury, Dorchester, England, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. Palace officials announced Monday that Prince Harry is engaged to Meghan Markle, confirming months of rumors that the couple was close to tying the knot. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

    Britain’s Prince Charles smiles as he visits the Loop Technology Centre in Poundbury, Dorchester, England, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. Palace officials announced Monday that Prince Harry is engaged to Meghan Markle, confirming months of rumors that the couple was close to tying the knot. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

  • Town Crier Tony Appleton holds a scroll outside Green Park in central London near Buckingham Palace after it was announced that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to be engaged. Monday Nov. 27, 2017. Britain’s royal palace says Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle are engaged and will marry in the spring of 2018. The announcement came Monday from the office of Harry’s father, Prince Charles. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)

    Town Crier Tony Appleton holds a scroll outside Green Park in central London near Buckingham Palace after it was announced that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to be engaged. Monday Nov. 27, 2017. Britain’s royal palace says Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle are engaged and will marry in the spring of 2018. The announcement came Monday from the office of Harry’s father, Prince Charles. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)

  • TV crews set up outside Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. Palace officials announced Monday that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged, and will marry in the spring. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

    TV crews set up outside Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. Palace officials announced Monday that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged, and will marry in the spring. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

  • Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. It was announced Monday that Prince Harry, fifth in line for the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, confirming months of rumors. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

    Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. It was announced Monday that Prince Harry, fifth in line for the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, confirming months of rumors. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

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The marriage represents a first-ever blending of Hollywood glamour with the once-stuffy royal family, which has of late seemed less fixed in its ways, and brings a mixed-race American divorcee into a highly visible role.

Harry’s brother, Prince William, and his pregnant wife Kate welcomed Markle to the royal family.

“We are very excited for Harry and Meghan,” they said in a statement. “It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.”

Harry’s father, Prince Charles, told reporters he was “thrilled” with the engagement.

“They’ll be very happy indeed,” he said.

The engagement announcement says the couple became engaged in London earlier this month and that Harry has informed his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. It says he sought and received the permission of Markle’s parents.

The couple plan to live in Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace. Markle is also reported to have started the sometimes time-consuming process of moving her dogs from Canada to Britain. She recently left her television show, a development that helped fueled engagement speculation.

Congratulations also came in from the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, and from Prime Minister Theresa May. Markle’s parents also welcomed the news.

Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland said their daughter Meghan “has always been a kind and loving person. To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents.”

Markle was raised in the Los Angeles area. Her father is a Hollywood lighting director, her mother a yoga instructor and psychotherapist.

In some ways, Markle — a mixed-race American raised in California, an outspoken full-time actress, and a divorcee — makes a surprising addition to Britain’s monarchy.

But the institution has moved on with the times, and the romance between Markle and Harry — who has repeatedly stressed his wish to lead as “normal” a life as he could — has a decidedly unstuffy, modern feel to it.

The announcement means another grand royal wedding may be in the offing — the first since William and Kate married in 2011 — though it is possible the couple may choose to have a private ceremony, perhaps in a remote location far from the paparazzi who bedeviled Harry’s mother, Princess Diana.

Markle, best known for her role as an ambitious paralegal in the hit U.S. legal drama “Suits,” surprised many when she shared her feelings for Harry in a September cover story for Vanity Fair.

Asked about the media frenzy surrounding their courtship, the 36-year-old said: “At the end of the day I think it’s really simple … we’re two people who are really happy and in love.”

Harry, once known for his dicey antics, including being photographed playing strip billiards in Las Vegas, has largely charmed the British public with his winning smile, his military career and his devotion to charities aimed at helping disabled veterans and other causes.

The 33-year-old prince recently won praise with his work campaigning for more openness about mental health issues. Speaking candidly about his personal struggle to cope with the loss of his mother when he was only 12, he encouraged others to talk about their own problems rather than keeping them bottled up inside.

Markle’s Vanity Fair interview broke new ground. It is unusual for a royal love interest to speak so publicly, and candidly, before becoming engaged.

Harry’s past reported girlfriends all shied away from the media limelight, and his sister-in-law, formerly known as Kate Middleton, stayed silent until she and Prince William gave a formal televised interview at Buckingham Palace after their engagement became public.

It won’t be the first time that a British royal has married an American, or a divorcee. In 1936, Edward VIII famously abdicated after he was forced to choose between the monarchy and his relationship with twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.

__

Jill Lawless contributed to this report.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/27/522832/

Nov 20

Nebraska panel approves alternative Keystone XL oil pipeline route  

By GRANT SCHULTE

The Associated Press
LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska commission approved an alternative route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state on Monday, removing the last major regulatory obstacle to building the long-delayed $8 billion project.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission’s vote on the long-delayed project could still be challenged in court. Opponents also said another federal review may be needed because the approved route would run farther north than the preferred route proposed by TransCanada Corp., which wants to build a 1,179-mile (1,897-kilometer) pipeline from Canada across several U.S. states.

“This decision opens up a whole new bag of issues that we can raise,” said Ken Winston, an attorney representing environmental groups that have long opposed the project.

Still, the commission’s 3-2 vote likely clears the way for the company to gain access to the property of holdout landowners in Nebraska who vehemently oppose the pipeline, using the state’s eminent domain laws. More than 90 percent of Nebraska landowners along the route have agreed to let TransCanada bury the pipeline beneath their property, but those who oppose it have managed to thwart the project for years.

The pipeline also faces intense opposition from Native American tribes, but business groups and some unions support the project as a way to create jobs and reduce the risk of shipping the oil by trains that can derail.

President Donald Trump issued a federal permit allowing for the project in March, reversing President Barack Obama administration’s rejection of it. TransCanada had said that it would announce in late November or early December whether it planned to proceed with building the pipeline, taking into account the Nebraska decision and whether it has lined up enough long-term contracts to ship oil.

Jane Kleeb, director of the pipeline opposition group the Bold Alliance, said her group believes TransCanada will have to seek another federal review of the route, a process that would add even more years to the timetable. The mainline alternative approved Monday includes 63 miles of new pipeline that hasn’t been reviewed by the federal government.

Opponents are expected to appeal the Nebraska commission’s decision in a state district court, and the case is likely to end up before the Nebraska Supreme Court. The commission was forbidden by law from considering a recent oil spill in South Dakota on the existing Keystone pipeline in its decision.

The proposed Keystone XL would expand the existing Keystone pipeline, which went into service in July 2010. The current pipeline network runs south through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and extends east into Missouri and Illinois.

The new pipeline would carry an estimated 830,000 barrels of oil a day from the oil sands areas of Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect with the existing Keystone pipeline. The pipeline would then continue through Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to the coast.

TransCanada has said its route through Nebraska is the most direct way to transport oil from Alberta, Canada, to an existing pipeline in Steele City, Nebraska.

The commission decision based on evidence presented at a public hearing in August. The elected commission is composed of four Republicans and one Democrat.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/20/nebraska-panel-approves-alternative-keystone-xl-route/

Nov 13

Trump focuses on trade and terrorism, not human rights abuse with Philippine President Duterte

MANILA, Philippines  — His lengthy Asia trip down to its final days, President Donald Trump opted Monday, Nov. 13, to keep his public focus on top priorities such as trade and combating terrorism rather than human rights, declining to shine a spotlight on the violent drug war overseen by his Philippine host.

Trump repeatedly praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, calling him by his first name, sharing a joke about the media and even complimenting Manila’s weather. What he did not do was what many predecessors have done before: highlight human rights abuses while overseas.

Duterte has overseen a bloody drug war that has featured extrajudicial killings. He has even boasted about killing people with his own hands. But during brief remarks to reporters, Trump said he and Duterte have “had a great relationship” and avoided questions on whether he’d raise human rights issues with the Filipino leaders.

The White House later said the two leaders discussed the Islamic State group, illegal drugs and trade during the 40-minute meeting. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said human rights came up “briefly” in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs. She did not say if Trump was critical of Duterte’s program.

That appeared to conflict with the Filipino version of the meeting. Harry Roque, a spokesman for Duterte, said, “There was no mention of human rights. There was no mention of extralegal killings. There was only a rather lengthy discussion of the Philippine war on drugs with President Duterte doing most of the explaining.”

Despite all that, the two sides later issued a joint statement saying that “the two sides underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs.”

On the sidelines of an international summit, Trump looked to strengthen ties with Pacific Rim allies, aiming to strike bilateral rather than multinational trade agreements, and increase pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. He met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday and highlighted their two nations’ “deeper and more comprehensive” ties, looking to strengthen a relationship that is vital to the U.S. vision of an Indo-Pacific region that attempts to de-emphasize China’s influence.

He jointly met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with whom he had a contentious phone call last winter, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who hosted the president in Tokyo earlier in the trip. Trump raved about his accomplishments on his five-nation journey, particularly on trade and on North Korea, which the White House has suggested may be designated a state sponsor of terror.

Trump said he would wait until his return to Washington on Wednesday to elaborate with a “major statement” on those two topics but hinted at progress while in Manila.

“We’ve made some very big steps with regard to trade — far bigger than anything you know,” Trump told reporters, pointing to business deals forged between U.S. and foreign companies.

“We’ve made a lot of big progress on trade. We have deficits with almost everybody. Those deficits are going to be cut very quickly and very substantially,” Trump said.

“Except us,” Turnbull chimed in, to laughs.

“You’re the only one,” Trump responded. Trump also said the trip had been “very fruitful” for the United States and pointed to the warm welcomes he had received in capitals like Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing.

“It was red carpet like nobody, I think, has probably ever received,” Trump said. “And that really is a sign of respect, perhaps for me a little, but really for our country. And I’m really proud of that.”

Trump met privately with Turnbull later Monday. But his interactions with Duterte drew the most scrutiny.

Advisers had said that while Trump was always unlikely to publicly chastise Duterte, he might offer criticisms behind closed doors. Trump would hold his tongue in public to avoid embarrassing Duterte, whom he is urging to help pressure North Korea and fight terrorism, and to avoid pushing him into the arms of China. Duterte has seemed less committed to the strategic partnership with the U.S.

Duterte’s war on drugs has alarmed human rights advocates around the world who say it has allowed police officers and vigilantes to ignore due process and to take justice into their own hands. Government officials estimate that well over 3,000 people, mostly drug users and dealers, have died in the ongoing crackdown. Human rights groups believe the victim total is far higher, perhaps closer to 9,000.

The opening ceremonies of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations conference began with pageantry, including a group photo of the leaders and the summit’s traditional handshake. That cross-body handshake, during which each leader shakes the opposite hands of those next to him or her, briefly baffled Trump, who then laughed as he figured out where to place his arms.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/13/trump-focuses-on-trade-terrorisma-not-human-rights-abuses-with-philippine-president-dutertet/

Nov 13

Top GOP leader on allegations on Senate candidate Moore: ‘I believe the women’

By ALAN FRAM and BRUCE SCHREINER

WASHINGTON — The top Republican in the Senate said Monday GOP candidate Roy Moore should quit his Alabama race amid allegations he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl and pursued romantic relationships with other teenage girls decades ago. “I believe the women,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican said flatly that Moore should step aside for another GOP candidate days after the Washington Post report that rocked the campaign for what the GOP had considered an inevitable special election win on Dec. 12. When the story first broke last Thursday, McConnell had said Moore should step aside if the allegations were true.

McConnell, questioned at a tax event in Louisville, said a write-in effort by another candidate was a possibility.

“That’s an option we’re looking at … whether or not there is someone who can mount a write-in campaign successfully,” McConnell said. Asked specifically about current Sen. Luther Strange, the loser to Moore in a party primary, he said, “We’ll see.”

On the Democratic side, one of the Senate’s moderate members is helping Moore’s challenger raise campaign funds, underscoring the party’s wary approach in an Alabama race that until recently was viewed as a virtually certain win for the GOP.

In fact, the fundraising bid by Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., doesn’t mention allegations about Moore.

“Doug’s opponent, Roy Moore, is an extremist with a record of putting political ideology above the rule of law,” Donnelly wrote in a weekend email soliciting contributions for Democrat Doug Jones. Moore and Jones face a Dec. 12 special election to replace Strange, who was appointed to replace Jeff Sessions when Sessions was named U.S. attorney general.

Donnelly’s email also cites Jones’ background as “the son of a steelworker” and a prosecutor who “worked to lock away members of the KKK and terrorists for despicable acts of violence.”

Donnelly faces re-election next year in Indiana and is considered one of his party’s most endangered incumbents.

In a further indication of Democrats’ caution, the party’s No. 2 Senate leader, Richard Durbin, dodged a question Sunday about what the Senate should do if Moore is elected. He tried to shift the focus back to Republicans.

“President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party in America. It’s his responsibility to step forward and say more and do more when it comes to the situation in Alabama,” Durbin, D-Ill., said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Moore said a lawsuit will be filed over the Post report that detailed the allegations against him.

While pressure to quit the race four weeks before Election Day intensified from within the Republican Party, Moore assured supporters Sunday night at a Huntsville, Alabama, gym that the article was “fake news” and “a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign.”

Moore said allegations that he was involved with a minor child are “untrue” and said the newspaper “will be sued,” drawing a round of applause. The former judge also questioned why such allegations would be leveled for the first time so close to the special election in spite of his decades in public life.

“Why would they come now? Because there are groups that don’t want me in the United States Senate,” he said, naming the Democratic Party and the Republican establishment and accusing them of working together. He added, “We do not plan to let anybody deter us from this race.”

The Post story quoted four women by name, including the woman who alleged the sexual contact at 14, and had two dozen other sources.

Moore, too, has tried to raise money from the controversy, writing in a fundraising pitch that the “vicious and sleazy attacks against me are growing more vicious by the minute.”

Even if Moore were to step aside, his name would likely remain on the ballot. And any effort to add Strange as a write-in candidate would threaten to divide the GOP vote in a way that would give the Democratic candidate a greater chance of winning.

Moore is an outspoken Christian conservative and former state Supreme Court judge.

While he has called the allegations “completely false and misleading,” in an interview with conservative radio host Sean Hannity he did not wholly rule out dating teenage girls when he was in his early 30s. Asked if that would have been usual for him, Moore said, “Not generally, no.”

The situation has stirred concern among anxious GOP officials in Washington in a key race to fill the Senate seat once held by Sessions. Losing the special election to a Democrat would imperil Republicans’ already slim 52-48 majority. But a Moore victory also would pose risks if he were to join the Senate GOP under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations.

___

Schreiner reported from Louisville, Kentucky.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/13/top-gop-leader-on-allegations-on-moore-i-believe-the-women/

Nov 13

Top GOP leader on allegations on Senate candidate Moore: ‘I believe the women’

By ALAN FRAM and BRUCE SCHREINER

WASHINGTON — The top Republican in the Senate said Monday GOP candidate Roy Moore should quit his Alabama race amid allegations he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl and pursued romantic relationships with other teenage girls decades ago. “I believe the women,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican said flatly that Moore should step aside for another GOP candidate days after the Washington Post report that rocked the campaign for what the GOP had considered an inevitable special election win on Dec. 12. When the story first broke last Thursday, McConnell had said Moore should step aside if the allegations were true.

McConnell, questioned at a tax event in Louisville, said a write-in effort by another candidate was a possibility.

“That’s an option we’re looking at … whether or not there is someone who can mount a write-in campaign successfully,” McConnell said. Asked specifically about current Sen. Luther Strange, the loser to Moore in a party primary, he said, “We’ll see.”

On the Democratic side, one of the Senate’s moderate members is helping Moore’s challenger raise campaign funds, underscoring the party’s wary approach in an Alabama race that until recently was viewed as a virtually certain win for the GOP.

In fact, the fundraising bid by Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., doesn’t mention allegations about Moore.

“Doug’s opponent, Roy Moore, is an extremist with a record of putting political ideology above the rule of law,” Donnelly wrote in a weekend email soliciting contributions for Democrat Doug Jones. Moore and Jones face a Dec. 12 special election to replace Strange, who was appointed to replace Jeff Sessions when Sessions was named U.S. attorney general.

Donnelly’s email also cites Jones’ background as “the son of a steelworker” and a prosecutor who “worked to lock away members of the KKK and terrorists for despicable acts of violence.”

Donnelly faces re-election next year in Indiana and is considered one of his party’s most endangered incumbents.

In a further indication of Democrats’ caution, the party’s No. 2 Senate leader, Richard Durbin, dodged a question Sunday about what the Senate should do if Moore is elected. He tried to shift the focus back to Republicans.

“President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party in America. It’s his responsibility to step forward and say more and do more when it comes to the situation in Alabama,” Durbin, D-Ill., said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Moore said a lawsuit will be filed over the Post report that detailed the allegations against him.

While pressure to quit the race four weeks before Election Day intensified from within the Republican Party, Moore assured supporters Sunday night at a Huntsville, Alabama, gym that the article was “fake news” and “a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign.”

Moore said allegations that he was involved with a minor child are “untrue” and said the newspaper “will be sued,” drawing a round of applause. The former judge also questioned why such allegations would be leveled for the first time so close to the special election in spite of his decades in public life.

“Why would they come now? Because there are groups that don’t want me in the United States Senate,” he said, naming the Democratic Party and the Republican establishment and accusing them of working together. He added, “We do not plan to let anybody deter us from this race.”

The Post story quoted four women by name, including the woman who alleged the sexual contact at 14, and had two dozen other sources.

Moore, too, has tried to raise money from the controversy, writing in a fundraising pitch that the “vicious and sleazy attacks against me are growing more vicious by the minute.”

Even if Moore were to step aside, his name would likely remain on the ballot. And any effort to add Strange as a write-in candidate would threaten to divide the GOP vote in a way that would give the Democratic candidate a greater chance of winning.

Moore is an outspoken Christian conservative and former state Supreme Court judge.

While he has called the allegations “completely false and misleading,” in an interview with conservative radio host Sean Hannity he did not wholly rule out dating teenage girls when he was in his early 30s. Asked if that would have been usual for him, Moore said, “Not generally, no.”

The situation has stirred concern among anxious GOP officials in Washington in a key race to fill the Senate seat once held by Sessions. Losing the special election to a Democrat would imperil Republicans’ already slim 52-48 majority. But a Moore victory also would pose risks if he were to join the Senate GOP under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations.

___

Schreiner reported from Louisville, Kentucky.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/13/top-gop-leader-on-allegations-on-moore-i-believe-the-women/

Aug 28

South Korea says North fires projectile over Japan

SEOUL, South Korea  — North Korea fired an unidentified projectile from its capital Pyongyang that flew over Japan, officials said, an especially aggressive test-flight that will rattle an already anxious region.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday said the South Korean and U.S. militaries were analyzing the launch and didn’t immediately confirm how far the projectile traveled. Japanese officials said the missile flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and landed in the Pacific Ocean. There was no damage to ships or anything else reported. Japan’s NHK TV said the missile separated into three parts.

The launch comes days after the North fired what was assessed as three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and a month after its second flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say could reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.

North Korea typically reacts with anger to U.S.-South Korean military drills, which are happening now, often staging weapons tests and releasing threats to Seoul and Washington in its state-controlled media. But animosity is higher than usual following threats by U.S. President Donald Trump to unleash “fire and fury” on the North, and Pyongyang’s stated plan to consider firing some of its missiles toward Guam.

Pyongyang regularly argues that the U.S.-South Korean military exercises are an invasion rehearsal. The allies say they are defensive and meant to counter North Korean aggression.

North Korea’s U.N. ambassador, Ja Song Nam, wrote recently that the exercises are “provocative and aggressive” when the Korean peninsula is “like a time bomb.”

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/08/28/south-korea-says-north-fires-ballistic-missile/

Aug 24

California Supreme Court upholds measure to speed executions

 

BY SUDHIN THANAWALA and BRIAN MELLEY

SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a ballot measure narrowly approved by voters to change the state’s dysfunctional death penalty system and speed up executions.

The highly anticipated ruling concerned Proposition 66, a push to “mend not end” capital punishment in California. The measure aimed to expedite death sentences in part by setting a five-year deadline on court appeals by condemned inmates.

With two of the seven justices dissenting, the state Supreme Court said the five-year deadline was advisory, not mandatory — a point that supporters of the measure had conceded during oral arguments.

The measure beat a competing initiative on the November ballot that would have abolished the death penalty.
Condemned inmates in California currently languish for decades and are more likely to die of natural causes than from lethal injection. There are nearly 750 inmates on death row and only 13 have been executed since 1978 — the last in 2006.
It now takes up to five years for death row inmates to get an attorney, and it can take upward of 25 years to exhaust appeals.

Proposition 66 would expand the pool of appellate lawyers handling capital cases and allow lower level state courts — not just the California Supreme Court — to hear appeals.

Death penalty opponents agreed with Proposition 66 backers that the current system was broken, but they argued that the measure would lead to the appointment of incompetent attorneys and overwhelm courts. The result: Insufficient review that could send innocent people to their deaths.

Arguments before a divided California Supreme Court in June focused on whether the measure’s five-year deadline to hear appeals was realistic and enforceable. Supporters of the measure surprised observers when they conceded the time limit was not mandatory but more of a guideline.

Several justices seized on that issue and asked a lawyer from the attorney general’s office how the deadline could be met without radically altering the court system and how it could be effective without consequences.

Death penalty supporters argued the measure would not create chaos and could be upheld without a hard deadline. They urged justices to give it a chance to work.

The measure — approved by 51 percent of voters — was designed by prosecutors to revamp the appeals process so the “worst of the worst” murderers are actually executed.

Under the measure, more lawyers would have to take death penalty appeals, and they would be assigned almost

mmediately after sentencing. It would shift one type of appeal focused on newly discovered evidence or alleging misconduct by jurors or prosecutors to trial court judges.

With 380 death penalty appeals now pending, there was concern from some legal observers that the state’s high court would be overwhelmed trying to meet the deadline imposed by the measure and would hardly hear other cases of merit.

Melley reported from Los Angeles.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/08/24/california-supreme-court-upholds-measure-to-speed-executions/

Aug 09

FBI agents searched former Trump campaign chair’s home

By CHAD DAY and ERIC TUCKER

WASHINGTON  — FBI agents have searched one of the homes of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, whose past foreign political work has been swept into the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. A Manafort spokesman confirmed the search Wednesday.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said in a statement that FBI agents had obtained a warrant and searched one of Manafort’s homes, but he would not say when the search occurred. The Washington Post, which first reported the raid, said agents working Special Counsel Robert Mueller conducted the search the morning of July 26 at Manafort’s home in Alexandria, Va.

“Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well,” Maloni said.

Manafort has been a subject of a longstanding FBI investigation into his dealings in Ukraine and work for the country’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych. That investigation has been incorporated into the probe led by Mueller, who is also scrutinizing Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign as he looks into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and any possible collusion with Trump associates.

Manafort, who led the Trump campaign for several months, has denied any wrongdoing.

The use of a search warrant shows law enforcement officials have convinced a judge there is probable cause to believe a crime may have been committed.

Manafort has recently cooperated with congressional committees investigating the election interference. He sat for a private interview with staff of the Senate intelligence committee the day before the FBI raid.

The topic of the panel’s interview was confined to a June 2016 meeting Manafort attended with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. That meeting, held at Trump Tower in New York, was described to Trump Jr. in emails as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign by passing along information that could be used against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

During the Senate committee interview , Manafort provided his recollection of the Trump Tower meeting and turned over contemporaneous notes he took during the gathering.

Manafort has also turned over other documents to the Senate intelligence committee as well as about 400 pages of records to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee said Wednesday it has also received about 250 pages of documents from Trump Jr. and about 20,000 pages from the Trump campaign.

The content of the documents was not immediately clear. The committee said it received the Manafort and Trump campaign documents on Aug. 2 and the records from Trump Jr. on Aug. 4.

Judiciary committee leaders have also been in talks with Trump Jr. and Manafort about private interviews. The committee initially called for them to testify publicly, but lawmakers have since said they were negotiating the terms of their appearances.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/08/09/fbi-agents-searched-former-trump-campaign-chairs-home/

Aug 07

Don Baylor, who won MVP with Angels and World Series with Twins, dies at 68

Don Baylor, a former Angels slugger and coach and winner of the franchise’s first MVP award, died Monday after a battle with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. He was 68.

Baylor died while hospitalized in Austin, Texas, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

“Don passed from this earth with the same fierce dignity with which he played the game and lived his life,” his wife, Rebecca, said in a statement.

  • File – Don Baylor #25 of the California Angels bats against the Baltimore Orioles during Game Three of the 1979 ALCS at Anaheim Stadium on October 5, 1979 in Anaheim, California. Baylor, the 1979 AL MVP with the California Angels who went on to become manager of the year with the Colorado Rockies in 1995, has died. He was 68. Baylor died Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at a hospital in Austin, Texas, his son, Don Baylor Jr., told the Austin American-Statesman. (Photo by Getty Images)

    File – Don Baylor #25 of the California Angels bats against the Baltimore Orioles during Game Three of the 1979 ALCS at Anaheim Stadium on October 5, 1979 in Anaheim, California. Baylor, the 1979 AL MVP with the California Angels who went on to become manager of the year with the Colorado Rockies in 1995, has died. He was 68. Baylor died Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at a hospital in Austin, Texas, his son, Don Baylor Jr., told the Austin American-Statesman. (Photo by Getty Images)

  • FILE – In this Oct. 5, 1979, file photo, California Angels’ Don Baylor, left, gets a handshake from teammate Rod Carew (29) after hitting a home run in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the American League playoffs against the Baltimore Orioles, in Anaheim, Calif. Baltimore catcher Dave Skaggs is at center. Don Baylor, the 1979 AL MVP with the California Angels who went on to become manager of the year with the Colorado Rockies in 1995, has died. He was 68. Baylor died Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at a hospital in Austin, Texas, his son, Don Baylor Jr., told the Austin American-Statesman. (AP Photo/File)

    FILE – In this Oct. 5, 1979, file photo, California Angels’ Don Baylor, left, gets a handshake from teammate Rod Carew (29) after hitting a home run in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the American League playoffs against the Baltimore Orioles, in Anaheim, Calif. Baltimore catcher Dave Skaggs is at center. Don Baylor, the 1979 AL MVP with the California Angels who went on to become manager of the year with the Colorado Rockies in 1995, has died. He was 68. Baylor died Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at a hospital in Austin, Texas, his son, Don Baylor Jr., told the Austin American-Statesman. (AP Photo/File)

  • File – Los Angeles Angels batting coach Don Baylor smiles prior to a baseball game at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on Wednesday, June 24, 2014. Baylor, the 1979 AL MVP with the California Angels who went on to become manager of the year with the Colorado Rockies in 1995, has died. He was 68. Baylor died Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at a hospital in Austin, Texas, his son, Don Baylor Jr., told the Austin American-Statesman. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News)

    File – Los Angeles Angels batting coach Don Baylor smiles prior to a baseball game at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on Wednesday, June 24, 2014. Baylor, the 1979 AL MVP with the California Angels who went on to become manager of the year with the Colorado Rockies in 1995, has died. He was 68. Baylor died Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at a hospital in Austin, Texas, his son, Don Baylor Jr., told the Austin American-Statesman. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News)

  • File – Angels’ hitting coach Don Baylor sits in the dugout before the Halos’ 9-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics Wednesday night at Angel Stadium. Baylor, the 1979 AL MVP with the California Angels who went on to become manager of the year with the Colorado Rockies in 1995, has died. He was 68. Baylor died Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at a hospital in Austin, Texas, his son, Don Baylor Jr., told the Austin American-Statesman. 4/22/15 (Photo by KEVIN SULLIVAN / Orange County Register)

    File – Angels’ hitting coach Don Baylor sits in the dugout before the Halos’ 9-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics Wednesday night at Angel Stadium. Baylor, the 1979 AL MVP with the California Angels who went on to become manager of the year with the Colorado Rockies in 1995, has died. He was 68. Baylor died Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at a hospital in Austin, Texas, his son, Don Baylor Jr., told the Austin American-Statesman. 4/22/15 (Photo by KEVIN SULLIVAN / Orange County Register)

  • Los Angeles Angels hitting coach Don Baylor during batting practice prior to a Major League Baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, July 31, 2015 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

    Los Angeles Angels hitting coach Don Baylor during batting practice prior to a Major League Baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, July 31, 2015 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

  • Los Angeles Angels hitting coach Don Baylor (25) high fives teammates prior to a Major League baseball game against the Kansas City Royals on Opening night at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, April 10, 2015. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

    Los Angeles Angels hitting coach Don Baylor (25) high fives teammates prior to a Major League baseball game against the Kansas City Royals on Opening night at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, April 10, 2015. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

  • The Los Angeles Angels hitting coach Don Baylor comes off the field after batting practice before they play the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Freeway Series pre-season game ant Angels Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday March 29, 2014. (Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

    The Los Angeles Angels hitting coach Don Baylor comes off the field after batting practice before they play the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Freeway Series pre-season game ant Angels Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday March 29, 2014. (Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

  • The Los Angeles Angels hitting coach Don Baylor watches batting practice before they play the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Freeway Series pre-season game ant Angels Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday March 29, 2014. (Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

    The Los Angeles Angels hitting coach Don Baylor watches batting practice before they play the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Freeway Series pre-season game ant Angels Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday March 29, 2014. (Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

  • The Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout (#27) listens to batting coach Don Baylor as they play against the Dodgers in their Freeway Series pre-season game ant Angels Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday March 29, 2014. (Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

    The Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout (#27) listens to batting coach Don Baylor as they play against the Dodgers in their Freeway Series pre-season game ant Angels Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday March 29, 2014. (Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

  • File – Los Angeles Angels batting coach Don Baylor (25) is helped off the field after injuring his leg during a ceremonial pitch by former Angel Vladimir Guerrero (not pictured) prior to a Major League baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on Opening Night at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, Calif., on Monday, March 31, 2014. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News)

    File – Los Angeles Angels batting coach Don Baylor (25) is helped off the field after injuring his leg during a ceremonial pitch by former Angel Vladimir Guerrero (not pictured) prior to a Major League baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on Opening Night at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, Calif., on Monday, March 31, 2014. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News)

  • Colorado Rockies batting instructor and former California Angel Don Baylor (25) during a major league baseball game at Angel Stadium on Saturday, June 26, 2010, in Anaheim. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Birmingham/SPORTS)

    Colorado Rockies batting instructor and former California Angel Don Baylor (25) during a major league baseball game at Angel Stadium on Saturday, June 26, 2010, in Anaheim. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Birmingham/SPORTS)

  • Oakland A’s Don Baylor, left, and Mark McGwire, limber up in the outfield at Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 1988 prior to the the start of the third game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The A’s trail the best-of-seven series 2-0. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

    Oakland A’s Don Baylor, left, and Mark McGwire, limber up in the outfield at Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 1988 prior to the the start of the third game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The A’s trail the best-of-seven series 2-0. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

  • 1979 MLB All Star Game

  • American League starting pitcher Nolan Ryan of the California Angels, goes through warn-up exercises before the start of the 50th All Star game in Seattle’s Kingdome, Tuesday, July 17, 1979. At right is teammates Don Baylor of the Angels, also a member of the starting lineup. (AP Photo)

    American League starting pitcher Nolan Ryan of the California Angels, goes through warn-up exercises before the start of the 50th All Star game in Seattle’s Kingdome, Tuesday, July 17, 1979. At right is teammates Don Baylor of the Angels, also a member of the starting lineup. (AP Photo)

  • FILE – In this Aug. 13, 1977, file photo, New York Yankees’ Willie Randolph falls on top of the California Angels’ Don Baylor after throwing to first base to complete a double play, at Yankee Stadium in New York. Don Baylor, the 1979 AL MVP with the California Angels who went on to become manager of the year with the Colorado Rockies in 1995, has died. He was 68. Baylor died Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at a hospital in Austin, Texas, his son, Don Baylor Jr., told the Austin American-Statesman. (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine, File)

    FILE – In this Aug. 13, 1977, file photo, New York Yankees’ Willie Randolph falls on top of the California Angels’ Don Baylor after throwing to first base to complete a double play, at Yankee Stadium in New York. Don Baylor, the 1979 AL MVP with the California Angels who went on to become manager of the year with the Colorado Rockies in 1995, has died. He was 68. Baylor died Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at a hospital in Austin, Texas, his son, Don Baylor Jr., told the Austin American-Statesman. (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine, File)

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Baylor spent 19 years in the majors with six teams, including six seasons with the Angels. In 1979, he won the MVP award, helping the Angels to their first playoff appearance. Baylor hit .296 with 36 homers and 139 RBI.

He reached the World Series three straight times at the end of his career from 1986 to 1988 and won the title with the Twins in 1987.

Baylor later served as manager for the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs. He also held other coaching jobs in the majors, in all wearing 14 major league uniforms as a player, coach or manager.

His final job in uniform was serving as the Angels’ hitting coach, in 2014 and 2015. He missed much of the 2014 season after suffering a broken leg during a freak accident during a pregame ceremony on opening day. Baylor was catching a ceremonial first pitch from Vladimir Guerrero when he twisted awkwardly and collapsed to the ground.

He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma 14 years ago, according to his family. He partnered with former Yankees pitcher Mel Stottlemyre to increase awareness and promote research into the disease.

Baylor is survived by his wife, Rebecca; son, Don Edward Jr.; brother, Doug; sister, Connie; two granddaughters Brooklyn and Nola Bee.

Arrangements have yet to be determined.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/08/07/don-baylor-who-won-mvp-with-angels-and-world-series-with-twins-dies-at-68/

Aug 02

Ara Parseghian, championship Notre Dame coach, has died at 94

TOM COYNE

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Ara Parseghian, who took over a foundering Notre Dame football program and restored it to glory with two national championships in 11 seasons, has died. He was 94.

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins announced in a statement that Parseghian died at home at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Parseghian had recently returned to his home in Granger, Indiana, after spending more than a week in a nursing care facility in South Bend, Indiana. He was treated for an infection in his surgically repaired hip, and was still receiving round-the-clock care at home.

Parseghian and the Irish won titles in 1966 and 1973, but he abruptly retired after the 1974 season at age 51 with a record of 95-17-4. He said he was worn out and ready for a change.

Parseghian, Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy are the only Irish coaches to lead the storied program to more than one national championship. His .836 winning percentage puts him third on Notre Dame’s coaching list behind fellow College Football Hall of Famers Rockne (.881) and Leahy (.855). Only Rockne (105, 1918-30) and Lou Holtz (100, 1986-96) won more total games at Notre Dame.

Parseghian started his coaching career at Miami University, his alma mater, and then spent eight seasons leading Northwestern. He came to Notre Dame in 1964, with the Irish having gone five seasons without a winning record. Parseghian didn’t just revive Notre Dame football. He made Fighting Irish fans believe in the program again. He later became a powerful advocate and fundraiser in the fight against rare diseases.

Parseghian led Notre Dame to national championships in two different decades, restoring the luster to what had been college football’s most glamorous franchise in one of its most important eras. He began his tenure in South Bend with an impromptu pep rally that drew 2,000 students to the steps of a residence hall and eventually persuaded Notre Dame to end its longstanding policy against playing in bowl games.

Parseghian was so beloved by students that when the weather turned bad, chants of “Ara, stop the rain!” or “Ara, stop the snow” cascaded down from the grandstands.

When he stepped down, Parseghian had established himself as part of the school’s “Holy Trinity” of coaches. He went into television work and spent more than a decade calling games on ABC and CBS.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/08/02/ara-parseghian-championship-notre-dame-coach-has-died-at-94/

Jul 18

House budget blueprint boosts military, cuts benefits

By ANDREW TAYLOR

WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a 10-year budget blueprint that would dramatically increase military spending while putting the GOP on record favoring Medicare cuts opposed by President Donald Trump.

The GOP plan, authored by Budget Chairman Diane Black, R-Tenn., would also pave the way for overhauling the U.S. tax code this fall, and would pair that effort with cuts to benefit programs such as food stamps. The plan also lays out a plan to balance the budget inside a decade through deep cuts to a wide swath of domestic programs — though GOP leaders have no intention of actually carrying out the cuts.

Black announced a committee vote for Wednesday, but action by the entire House could be delayed by an ongoing quarrel between the GOP’s tea party and moderate factions over spending cuts.

Medicare is the second largest mandatory program after Social Security, and the House GOP plan again proposes to turn Medicare into a voucher-like program in which future retirees would receive a fixed benefit to purchase health insurance on the open market. Republicans have proposed the idea each year since taking back the House in 2011, but they’ve never tried to implement it — and that’s not going to change now, even with a Republican as president.

The plan, in theory at least, promises to balance the budget through unprecedented and unworkable cuts across the budget. It calls for turning this year’s projected $700 billion or so deficit into a tiny $9 billion surplus by 2027. It would do so by slashing $5.4 trillion over the coming decade, including almost $500 billion from Medicare, $1.5 trillion from Medicaid and the Obama health law, along with enormous cuts to benefits such as federal employee pensions, food stamps, and tax credits for the working poor.

“The status quo is unsustainable. A mounting national debt and lackluster economic growth will limit opportunity for people all across the country,” Black said in a statement. “But we don’t have to accept this reality. We can move forward with an optimistic vision for the future and this budget is the first step in that process. This is the moment to get real results for the American people. The time for talking is over, now is the time for action.”

But in the immediate future the GOP measure is a budget buster. It would add almost $30 billion to Trump’s $668 billion request for national defense, which already exceeds an existing “cap” on spending by $54 billion. But while Trump proposed taking that $54 billion from domestic agencies and foreign aid, the GOP budget plan would restore most of the cuts, trimming non-defense agencies by just $5 billion.

All told, the GOP plan would spend about $67 billion more in the upcoming annual appropriations bills than would be allowed under harsh spending limits set by a failed 2011 budget and debt agreement and pads war accounts by $10 billion. And, like Trump’s budget, the House GOP plan assumes rosy economic projections that would erase another $1.5 trillion from the deficit over 10 years.

The measure, called a budget resolution, is nonbinding. It would allow Republicans controlling Congress to pass follow-up legislation through the Senate without the threat of a filibuster by Democrats. GOP leaders and the White House plan to use that measure to rewrite the tax code.

As proposed by House leaders, tax reform would essentially be deficit neutral, which means cuts to tax rates would be mostly “paid for” by closing various tax breaks such as the deduction for state and local taxes. However, the GOP plan would devote $300 billion claimed from economic growth to the tax reform effort.

But conservatives are insisting on adding cuts to so-called mandatory programs, which make up more than two-thirds of the federal budget and basically run on autopilot. After extended negotiations, Black would instruct 11 House panels to draw up $203 billion worth of mandatory cuts. But neither tea party lawmakers nor moderates are pleased with the idea. Conservatives want larger cuts, while moderates are blanching at voting to cut popular programs such as food stamps.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/07/18/house-budget-blueprint-boosts-military-cuts-benefits/

Jul 05

California Democrats out to reverse another election rule to help one of their own

BY TARYN LUNA

First, Democrats hoping to protect one of their own passed a law changing the rules for a recall.

Now they are pressuring the state’s campaign watchdog to reverse a longstanding stance on contribution limits to once again benefit Sen. Josh Newman, who Republicans are seeking to punish for casting a vote to raise state gas taxes.

In 2002, the California Fair Political Practices Commission adopted a regulation that said state candidates are subject to contribution limits when they give money to a recall committee controlled by another state candidate. The FPPC interprets the law to mean that state politicians can’t give the Fullerton Democrat more than $4,400 each to fight his recall.

Roughly 15 years and two recall elections after the agency took the position, Senate Democrats are arguing the FPPC got it wrong. They say candidate committees should be able to give unlimited sums to a candidate-controlled recall committee, which would allow Newman to rely on fundraising by colleagues to help fend off the Republicans gunning for him. Democrats had the Legislature’s government lawyers study the issue, and on June 27 Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine issued an opinion predicting that courts would uphold a reversal of the FPPC’s longstanding interpretation.

A lawyer working for the caucus appeared at the agency’s monthly meeting last week to request that commissioners reverse the interpretation.

“Unlike the perpetrators of this fraudulent recall attempt, Senate Democrats are committed to properly interpreting and adhering to the law…” said Jason Kinney, a spokesman for Senate Democrats. “Given the exigency of the issue, it seems logical and appropriate that the bipartisan FPPC would want to consider the matter quickly.”

The position reappeared on an FPPC fact sheet in 2003 during the successful recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, according to a letter written by the commission’s executive director Erin Perth earlier this month. The agency reiterated its position again in an advice letter to lawyers during an unsuccessful recall campaign against then-state Sen. Jeff Denham, a Republican, in 2008.

During the Denham recall, the firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, working on behalf of Republicans, similarly disagreed with the FPPC position.

Thomas Hiltachk, whose firm was hired this year by the GOP proponents of the Newman recall, said the agency’s interpretation has been on the books for more than a decade and there’s no reason to change it now. He said Democrats should take the issue to a judge or pass a law in the California Legislature if they think the agency is wrong.

“Based on what we’ve seen over the course of the last two weeks, Newman should have no problem getting the Legislature to do whatever it takes to protect him from the voters in the 29th Senatorial District,” Hiltachk said.

Last week Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law to change the rules governing recall elections. The new law effectively adds months to the existing timeline to certify a recall election for the ballot and ensures that the recall election would be held during the June primary next year, when more Democrats are likely to cast votes.

The issue of campaign contributions ignited a testy debate between some of the commissioners at the monthly FPPC meeting on Thursday.

Richard Rios, an attorney for Senate Democrats, implored the commissioners to expedite a review of the opinion and draft a new regulation given the time-sensitive nature of the recall. Last week the state Republican Party announced that it had submitted to county election offices nearly 85,000 signatures to recall Newman. That’s 20,000 more than necessary to force a vote.

Jodi Remke, chair of the FPPC, cited concerns about violating open meeting laws. She said the agency should not be required to take swift action given that Rios’ request came in just days before the commission met. Items must be on the FPPC agenda for 10 days before a meeting, among other rules governing public notice.

“I do not see the benefit of rushing it at this point when it was not rushed on their side,” Remke said.

Others offered a more sympathetic ear.

Commissioner Maria Audero, an employment law attorney in Los Angeles, questioned staff members about the fastest possible route to resolve the issue, including whether the agency could hold an emergency meeting to take it up. The FPPC’s July meeting had been canceled because it conflicted with the agency’s upcoming move to a new office.

Commissioner Brian Hatch, a longtime lobbyist for the California Professional Firefighters, also wanted to speed up the timeline.

“Similar to ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, late money is not very helpful in an election,” Hatch said. “The longer we take, the more chance the person who is affected is going to be hobbled by people of extreme resources who will have no limits on how much they can spend to try to recall the legislator in question.”

In the end the commission agreed to revive the July meeting, which would make it possible for the commission to move forward with a new regulation in August.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/07/05/california-democrats-out-to-reverse-another-election-rule-to-help-one-of-their-own/